$13.1M in stimulus cash revives dino monument
For a half-century, the earth moved under Dinosaur National Monument's Quarry Visitor Center.
Floors heaved, windows shattered and the world-renowned gallery -- displaying more than 1,500 Jurassic-period dino fossils -- sank 12 inches. The center in eastern Utah became so unstable that officials shut it down in July 2006.
Nearly three years later -- after seeing visitors and entrance-fee revenues plunge -- Dinosaur National Monument will get $13.1 million to fix the gallery.
That's more than half the $24 million bound for 12 national parks, monuments and recreation areas in Utah under a $750 million stimulus boost unveiled Wednesday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
In fact, Dinosaur's take bests those of bigger and better-known Utah parks such as Zion and Bryce Canyon and rivals Yellowstone's $14.7 million.
"From the Statue of Liberty to Yellowstone, from Independence Hall to Death Valley, American workers will revitalize our parks, rehabilitate visitors centers and tackle long-delayed maintenance projects," Salazar said. "This is not only an investment in our economy, it is an investment in our heritage."
Salazar said $750 million from Interior's $3 billion stimulus portion will go toward about 750 projects across the nation -- including dozens in Utah. The parks also will snag $150 million in federal transportation funds for road work for a total of $900 million.
Other hefty Utah expenditures include $8 million for 68 miles of roads in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and nearly $1 million for solar-energy panels and trail repairs at Zion.
But Dinosaur, which straddles the Utah-Colorado state line, is the biggest winner.
Work on the long-shuttered visitor center should begin no later than the fall of 2010, said National Park Service regional spokesman Pat O'Driscoll.
"The closure of the Quarry Center has been the most traumatic thing that has happened to us," said monument Superintendent Mary Risser.
The monument also will receive $628,000 to replace water lines, repair trails, rehabilitate the Gates of Lodore boat ramp on the Green River and install energy-efficient windows at the park's headquarters in Colorado.
Many of the park projects considered "critical infrastructure" are basic. In Bryce Canyon, $579,000 will go to new restrooms and repairs to the one-mile Bristlecone Trail.
Those restrooms are "obsolete" and have needed upgrading for at least a decade, said Bryce facilities manager Dan Cloud. "They're still usable," he said, "but [are] harder and harder to keep clean and not accessible by any stretch of the imagination."
The trail needs its surface replaced, Cloud said. "It's just weathered away."
That trail work will be done in-house with park staffers. But most of the stimulus projects will go to private contractors, who will do the hiring for an as-yet unknown number of jobs, O'Driscoll said.
But it's not just roads, trails and buildings that need money. "It's having rangers there, available to talk to kids," said Karen Hevel-Mingo, Southwest regional program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association.
"What happens when we renovate this building but don't have the rangers there interpreting the culture?" she asked. "They've had to whittle down to bare bones -- and that includes personnel."
Risser said despite the loss of Dinosaur's visitors, the Quarry Center's closure has had an upside.
With no visitor center to buzz in and out of, she said, "the people who are coming are staying longer. They are asking the rangers more questions about what to do and see in the park. It's a wonderful place to study the homesteading era."
Arches » Flood-diversion wall, $78,000.
Bryce Canyon » Demolish and replace restrooms to meet federal handicapped-access standards; repair Bristlecone Trail, $579,000.
Canyonlands » Energy-efficiency rehab for Hans Flat maintenance building; replace propane tanks at Island in the Sky, $159,000.
Capitol Reef » Rehab multiple buildings for energy efficiency; replace and repair park employee residences, $180,000.
Cedar Breaks » Repair trails and fences, $150,000.
Dinosaur » Demolish and replace condemned portions of visitor center, $13.1 million.
Glen Canyon » Road projects covering 68 miles, $8 million.
Golden Spike » Repair trails and replace boundary and tour gates, $66,000.
Hovenweep » Maintenance and repair on Cajon Pueblo, $55,000.
Natural Bridges » Stabilize erosion at Bare Ladder Ruin, $15,000,
Timpanogos Cave » Extend roof at cave exit shelter to protect visitors from falling rocks, $192,000.
Zion » Solar-energy panels at park buildings and trail repairs, $945,000.
Note » Utah also will share more than $1.1 million with Colorado and Arizona for work in Dinosaur National Monument and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area.
By May 1, the Interior Department's $3 billion in stimulus funds should be parceled out to all six of its agencies -- the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Land Management.
Regional Park Service spokesman Pat O'Driscoll said Interior plans to have a central Web site, dubbed FedBizOpps.gov, where contractors, vendors and the public can find out more about how to get work.